According to a report, the beginning of the year 2020 has seen a burst of growth in US business activity. This contrasts with slowing growth in many other major economies around the world.
Japan also saw a rise in business activity, helping pick up for the weak performance at the end of 2019. Europe was showing signs of slow growth in January, with exports from Europe stabilizing after a long decline. The service sector was still languishing.
The US economy is doing better than either Japan or Europe, and the prediction is that for the near future at least it will stay this way. The cooling down of the trade war between the US and China should also add a little boost to the economies of both countries and countries connected to them through trade.
IHS Markit, a data-gathering company, reported that its composite purchasing managers index in the US had reached 53.1 in January, up from 52.7 in December, the highest it has been in 10 months.
IHS also stated that, according to surveys, businesses in Europe and out will most likely remain slow and weak. Surveys of CFOs discovered confidence in the US market, but not as much confidence in the European and other markets. Some are expecting a stall in the 2020 economy.
As of January 7, 2019, all those leaving Japan will be required to cough up an additional 1,000 yen (US$9). The money will be collected to improve tourism infrastructure in the country.
The levy, known as the International Tourist Tax, will be obligatory and all nationalities, regardless of the reason they are leaving the Japan. Tourists, businessmen, and any other traveler, as long as he or she is beyond 2 years old, will have the surcharge added to the price of their plane ticket.
Japanese authorities expect to raise about 50 billion yen. With the new money they plan to improve tourism infrastructure, including making the immigration process at the airport smoother, and encouraging visitors to go beyond the usual Tokyo and Kyoto stops during their stays in Japan.
The Asian democracy has been stepping up its marketing to the international tourist sector as a new source for its economic growth. In 2018 it is estimated that about 30 million foreigners visited Japan, the most ever. Many of the growth in tourism comes from Asian visitors, especially those arriving from China, South Korea and Taiwan. Japan is hoping that the coming Olympics will get the number of visitors to Japan up to 40 million by the year 2020.
Attitudes towards expansion of certain types of worker’s rights, such as same-sex marriage, do not get the same kind of wide-spread support in Japan as they do in the United States. In a move that is out of step with the prevailing cultural and business attitudes held in Japan, Panasonic has, albeit quietly, recognized the legitimacy of same-sex partnerships.
Panasonic decision is highly unusual, and although it is bold, it is unlikely to be the beginning of a new trend in Asia. “Coming out” is highly problematic in countries like China, South Korea and the Philippines, as well as much of the rest of Asia. Not only do the individuals coming out face extreme ridicule, their families also have to endure abuse and even ostracism.
Lenny Sanicola, an expert on employee benefits policy at a Washington DC-based non-profit called WorldatWork, thought Panasonic’s low-key approach to their announcement was a mistake. He said that “Panasonic would be a pioneer in Japan,” if they would announce their new policy loud and clear to the entire world. The message they would project would show that the company placed a high value on diversity, thus attracting younger talent to Japan, a country that is aging quickly.
Sanicola added that it is just a matter of time until the Asian countries adopt the same position as that held in Europe and North America.
The price of crude oil futures climbed a bit on Monday as demand from Asia and the US edged up as well.
Brent crude surged by 2 cents a barrel to $65.39 at 03:12 GMT. US crude showed a steeper climb, leaving it a bit below Brent crude, at $59.86 per barrel.
Energy Aspects, a London-based publication which discusses the energy markets, commented on the increased price of oil:
“Global oil demand continues to surprise to the upside, with April data showing no signs of slowdown despite a pick-up in prices.”
Japan’s Ministry of Finance said that crude oil imports to Japan increased by 9.1 percent to 3.62 million barrels per day in April, compared to one year earlier. China hit a new record of crude imports, reaching 7.4 million barrels per day in April. That surge is despite China’s slowing economy which is offset by vigorous car sales.
“We expect Chinese imports to be high in H2 15, potentially averaging 7.5 million barrels per day. This is due to the start-up of 39 mb (million barrels) of commercial storage, five SPR (strategic petroleum reserve) sites and linefill for Kunming refinery—buying for which is ongoing we believe, even though the refinery won’t start up till early 2016,” Energy Aspects said.
On the other side of the globe the United States is now entering its peak season for driving with the Memorial Day weekend just coming to an end. According to the American Automobile Association, road travel in the US is expected to reach a ten-year high over the weekend, tightly correlated with higher oil use.
The Japanese Finance Ministry released their figures for 2013 showing that Japan had a record trade deficit, exceeding even the previous year’s numbers.
For the first time in three years Japan posted an year-on-year rise in the value of exports, mostly caused by the continued loss in value of the yen compared to the dollar, with a simultaneous uptick in the value of imports.
Last year was the third year in a row that Japan had a trade deficit, the first time since data on this information became available in 1979. Last year’s trade deficit totaled 11.47 trillion yen ($112 billion). That number represents a giant increase of 65.3 percent over the previous year’s record of 6.94 trillion yen.
Japan’s trade with the United States is the highest for all countries and regions. The total exports from Japan to the US were up 15.6 percent, to 12.93 trillion yen. Part of that increase came from the sale of Japanese cars to US markets.